Robbie Fulks

Georgia Hard

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Robbie Fulks seems to have developed something of a love/hate relationship with country music. It's not so much that Fulks doesn't like the stuff anymore (quite the opposite), but his albums Let's Kill Saturday Night and Couples in Trouble have made it clear his interests has been moving into other areas, but while Couples in Trouble was the strongest and most ambitious album of his career to date, it didn't sell very well, and its wide palette of rock and pop sounds puzzled many fans who were hoping for more tunes like, say, "She Took a Lot of Pills (And Died)." Fulks has headed back into country territory with Georgia Hard, his first album for Yep Roc (and his first set not recorded on his own dime since his ill-fated affiliation with Geffen), which is informed by his love of countrypolitan songwriting in the manner of Bill Anderson, Shel Silverstein and Roger Miller. While this album certainly plays to Fulks' strengths, it also suggests that he's chafing a bit at its self-imposed boundaries; there are songs here that have "country hit" written all over them, especially "Where There's a Road," "I Never Did Like Planes," "If They Could Only See Me Now," and the excellent title cut. However, there are a few that edge uncomfortably towards parody in their pursuit of the twang, such as "All You Can Cheat" and "Goodbye, Cruel Girl," while "I'm Gonna Take You Home (And Make You Like Me)" and "Countrier Than Thou" are so snarky they shoot the album's balance square in the foot (the latter seems specifically designed to alienate whatever fans he has who weren't annoyed by "Roots Rock Weirdos"). Georgia Hard leaves no doubt that Robbie Fulks is as good a country songwriter as anyone working today, but bits of it clearly suggest he'd rather be doing other things, and it's a shame he hasn't been able to balance the broader vision of Couples in Trouble with the richer and more human outlook depicted in this disc's high points.

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